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Facebook Fails with Social Shopping

Posted on 11.21.2010

Facebook is missing the mark on the social shopping, perhaps the biggest money-making venture in the social era of the Web.

Sites like Groupon and LivingSocial have seen tremendous success by crowd-sourcing deals. Even Twitter has @earlybird. But where is Facebook? As the largest social network in existence, shouldn't they be leading the way, or at least be a major contributor? Well, apparently they are attempting to dominate this part of the social Web, too, although you would hardly know it. And this lack of presence is due to the fact that Facebook refuses to give its users anything without requiring your privacy in return.

Facebook recently announced Deals. And, according to Fast Company, their first big promotion with The Gap was a huge success. This promotion - and all other Facebook Deals - included the requirement to "check in" using Facebook Places. So, not only did your friends now know that you were about to shop at The Gap, but they also knew exactly where. And that you got a free pair of jeans for doing so. What's more, you are now a part of Facebook Places, like it or not. (The Gap, by the way, is quickly becoming the darling of social shopping, while threatening to make the whole world look very plain.)

That seems like a lot to do - or give up - for a free pair of jeans. And you can bet that "free" will not be the regular fare on Facebook Deals.

Is it worth it? With Groupon, I can secretly slip a waiter my coupon and I sure don't need to tell everyone I know what I bought that day. With Facebook, I need to broadcast my frugality all over the Web and, no doubt, share certain information with marketers. Do I want to tell the world whether I wear boxers or briefs? No, I don't. Not even if I get a six-pack for the price of one pair.

Facebook also has Marketplace. But about all that does for me is to send annoying emails everytime a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend lists an old coffee table for sale. And, like Deals, unless you want everyone and your mother to know that you want to hock last year's Christmas present that you never used, Facebook Marketplace might not be the best way to go. (Especially if that present was from you-know-who.)

I don't need everyone to know my shopping habits. And I don't want everyone to know, either. In a way, it's like telling people about my finances. If I want to tell people about a great deal I got on a dozen cupcakes, I'll tell them. I'll send them an email or Tweet, or post it on Facebook myself.

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